Cryo-electron tomography of bacteria: progress, challenges and future prospects

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2009 Sep;7(9):666-75. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2183. Epub 2009 Aug 10.


Recent advances in three-dimensional electron microscopy provide remarkable tools to image the interior of bacterial cells. Glimpses of cells at resolutions that are 1-2 orders of magnitude higher than those currently attained with light microscopy can now be obtained with cryo-electron tomography, especially when used in combination with new tools for image averaging. This Review highlights recent advances in this area and provides an assessment of the general applicability, current limitations and type of structural information that can be obtained about the organization of intact cells using tomography. Possible future directions for whole cell imaging are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / ultrastructure*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Electron Microscope Tomography / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*